The government has “rushed” a decision to build a huge lorry park the size of Disneyland California and more should be done to demonstrate it will deliver a solution to Kent’s ‘Operation Stack’ traffic chaos.
The Transport Select Committee says that although the government is right to seek a solution, it’s left behind usual best practice in giving the go-ahead to a huge 4,000-vehicle lorry park near to junction 11 of the M20.
The 65-hectare lorry park would be the size of 90 full-size football pitches and cost £250 million to build.
“It would be on a scale unprecedented in Europe,” said the Committee, “with just one other lorry park in the world rivalling it for size.”
Louise Ellmann MP, chair of the Committee, added: “We are not saying that the Government should not press ahead with its proposal, only that it has more work to do to persuade us of the business case for this investment.”
Ministers “should do more to demonstrate why a lorry park roughly the size of Disneyland in California is better than the alternatives we heard about during our inquiry.”
Operation Stack: alternative solutions
The Transport Select Committee says alternatives to the huge quarter-billion-pound lorry park include:
- Upgrading the M20
- Increasing capacity at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel
- A network of smaller lorry parks
- ‘Virtual queuing’ intelligent traffic management
- Switching operators
- Upgrading the A2 / M2 freight corridor
- Use of alternative ports
- ‘Modal shift’ to rail freight instead of road
In 2015, Operation Stack was used 32 times; Kent County Council estimates the cost of the subsequent traffic disruption to be £1.5 million a day.
The system is used to manage delays at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel: lorries are parked on stretches of the southbound M20.
The Freight Transport Association says a solution is essential because Operation Stack “causes major disruption, not only for the drivers in Operation Stack but also for Kent’s businesses and residents”.
FTA head of road network management policy Malcolm Bingham said: “If a large lorry area is the answer, then the residents of Kent deserve an explanation of what the need is and how it will work. Equally if that is not the solution, any alternatives need to be fully explored.”
Operation Stack queues can stretch 35 miles, adds the FTA: the cost to freight operators alone is £750,000 a day.
The government has already awarded a contract to Balfour Beatty to build the lorry park, at one of two sites near to the village of Stanford: the target opening date is summer 2017.